An Excerpt From My Children’s Book, “Jelly Bean Jones”

I wrote a 9-chapter children’s book called “Jelly Bean Jones.” It is about a girl born in Oahu and orphaned as a baby, adopted by her Aunt Samantha. Together with the devoted Hawaiian couple, Uncle Pau and Aunty Mei Mei, who worked for her parents,  they form their own ohana, or extended family.

In the summer of 1958 when Jelly Bean turns 10, they move to a small town in New Hampshire, where she makes fast friends with her next door neighbors, 10-year old Cecilia and her 12-year old brother, Julian. They have never met anyone like Jelly Bean and her family, and before they know it, they are helping to host the first-ever neighborhood Hawaiian luau, taking on the local mean girls, living their dreams and having more adventures then they could have imagined.

The following excerpt is from Chapter 3, where Jelly Bean tells Cecilia one of her “Rainy Stories.” These are stories for a rainy day, that start where the traditional fairy tales end. This one is called “What Happened to Snow White AFTER the Prince Arrived.”

“Snow White woke up in her new bedroom in the palace. She thought about yesterday when the handsome prince had placed her tenderly in front of him on his saddle on his beautiful white horse and galloped her away to her new life. All seven dwarves had clapped and cheered loudly as she rode away, and she had waved back gaily.

But now, in the unfamiliar bed with silken sheets and fluffy pillows (at home her pillow was a sack of flour), she realized that she had no idea what a princess (and did marrying the prince actually make her a princess?) should be doing. Snow White was used to full days of cleaning, cooking, baking, gardening, sweeping and mending for her little friends. Who would do all that for them now? She wondered if the prince would let them all live in the palace with them, but then realized that they would probably feel like wild birds in cages.

Perhaps the prince would allow her to visit them from time to time. And surely they would all come to her wedding! Happily, she jumped out of bed and looked for her clothes from yesterday. They were gone! She opened a big wooden wardrobe to find it filled with dozens of beautiful gowns in pink and purple and green and blue and lavender and yellow. And below the gowns were pretty shoes that matched each dress.

Which one should she put on? They were all so pretty and the materials were so rich and soft. She took a blue and gold gown out and was about to put it on when she looked down and noticed that her bare feet were filthy.

Snow White just couldn’t put on a gown as lovely as this without washing up. At home, she just washed her face and hands, and only took a full bath (in the pond nearby) once a week. But where in this huge palace could she go to clean up? Just then, there was a knock at the door.

Snow White opened the door, and a young girl with pretty brown hair curtsied to her and said, “Hello, miss—I’m Katie, your new maid.”

At this, Snow White burst out laughing. “A maid? For me? Katie, I’m a maid myself—or was.” They smiled at each other. “Where should I go to wash up?”

Katie led her to a lavish bathroom, as big as the entire cottage she and the seven dwarves had lived in. There was an enormous white marble tub, already filled with fragrant sudsy water with steam coming off it. Three beautiful white lilies floated in the water, and there were thick, soft piles of pure white towels piled on a little golden chair near the tub.

“Oooh! Is that for me?” asked Snow White.

“Yes, miss. Enjoy your bath. I’ll be back in a little while to fix your hair.” She curtsied again and left.

As she settled herself into the sweet-smelling hot water, loving the warmth, she started to feel—uneasy. She couldn’t remember that last time she had spent a moment on herself since living with her little friends. Each day she was on her feet from sunup to sundown, happily caring for her friends, and singing while she worked. With a pang, she realized how much she missed them all.

As much as she loved the wonderful bath, she grew restless and got out, wrapping herself up in one of the soft towels. The gown she had picked out earlier was laid out on the bed for her, along with frilly petticoats and blue velvet slippers. Quickly, Snow White got dressed and then went to look out the window. Below in the courtyard were several fine horses, each one more beautiful than the last. The wonderful white horse belonging to the prince was there as well. He was being brushed by a groom, while another expertly braided golden ribbons into his mane and tail. The handsome buttery leather saddle on the horse was richly decorated with gold and silver, and she could see glints of diamonds here and there.

Snow White looked down at her pretty new gown and velvet slippers and started laughing. She said to herself, ‘Why, I’m just another fancy horse in fancy horse harness!’ Would the prince want her to cook and clean for him? Not likely. She bet that the palace was just full of busy servants, doing all work for the royal family. There was probably a whole stable of “Katies” as well. She sat down on the bed and thought some more.

That evening, Snow White sat at the table with the prince and his parents, the King and Queen. She was completely confused by all the silverware flanking her plate, and didn’t even recognize half the foods on it. Back in her little cottage, everyone had exactly one spoon and one fork. The little men used their working knives to cut meat and fruit. Speaking of food, as good as all this smelled, she longed for a simple bowl of the pease porridge she used to make. She would hang it in a bag over the cauldron in the hearth to simmer all day, and it would be done to a creamy turn by dinnertime.

She had tried to talk with the prince before dinner, but he seemed far more interested in his glass of ruby port than her. Oh, he gave her lavish compliments on her hair and skin and the way she was dressed and so on. He also presented her with a tremendous sparkling diamond ring that weighed her hand down. Slowly she realized that what he really wanted was for her to just sit and be beautiful, in short, to become simply another prized acquisition, like his wonderful horse.

You would think that, coming from such poverty to abject wealth would be so grand! All those lovely gowns and matching shoes, the shining ring, the silken bed and the huge bath, but—was that all there was to this life? Plus, the prince, when you took a good look at him, was handsome enough, but there was a haughty unsatisfied look about him, His table manners were horrible (even the dwarves, as rough as they were, had better ones), he talked with his mouth full, and he was rude and dismissive to his parents. On the way to the palace, he had cruelly jabbed his beautiful horse in the sides with his silver spurs to go faster. Snow White had winced at the poor horse’s cry of pain.

The King and Queen were polite enough to her, and the Queen tried to teach her what she felt she needed to know. But there were so many rules! How to sit, how to stand, how to smile, how to use her fan, and these were just rules for inside the palace! Outside, she was admonished to wear heavy veils to keep her skin white, and kidskin gloves to keep her hands soft. The Queen gently but constantly criticized Snow White’s speech, walk, manners; in short, everything.

She remembered how good the sun had felt on her face and bare arms as she worked happily in the garden by the little cottage. Her days were filled with any number of pleasant little chores, and at nightfall, she was always happy to see her friends come home and sit down to dinner.

The King had made it very clear that her main job was to please the prince by keeping herself pretty and to bear him many sons. (‘As if I were another breed horse,’ she thought.) The days and weeks passed leading up to her wedding day, and Snow White tried her best to please everyone. The fittings began for her wedding dress and veil, which had been specially designed for her without asking her opinion or what she might want. The wedding gown was an absolute triumph of shimmering white silk, frothy lace, with tiny pearls and diamonds hand-sewn into flowers scattered throughout. The filmy veil was held in place by a sparkling diamond, pearl and ruby tiara, which set off Snow White’s lustrous black hair to perfection.

She stood in the mirror, dressed in her wedding finery on the day before the wedding, with the Queen and all the attendants softly clapping their approval. ‘Why,’ she said to herself, ‘I don’t even look like me! I look like some fancy woman of court, raised in luxury.’ She allowed the maids to carefully remove the tiara, veil and gown, and she shut herself in her bedroom and thought, ‘This is no life for me. I don’t feel like myself and I certainly don’t look like myself anymore, and I’m tired of being something I’m not.’

The next morning, early on the wedding day, Katie knocked softly on Snow White’s door. There was no answer. Katie slowly opened the door to find the beautiful wedding dress and veil laid carefully out on the bed, along with the diamond ring, the shining tiara and the diamond-studded slippers. She threw open the wardrobe door, and all of the gowns were still there except for the plainest one, a simple blue one with a bit of lace on the neckline and sleeves. Katie grinned when she noticed that all of the slippers were still there as well. She couldn’t help but laugh to herself when she imagined the outcry that would follow after she made her report to the Queen about Snow White’s disappearance.

Katie was just about the Prince’s age, and had known him as a boy. Whenever he couldn’t get what he wanted exactly when he wanted it, he threw terrible tantrums involving kicking everyone in sight (including his nurse, mother, father, and once, Katie herself), also screaming and pulling his own hair, throwing anything that came to hand, and ending with holding his breath until he turned an alarming shade of purple. Everyone found it easier to just give in to him. It was certainly quieter that way.

As Snow White made her way back through the forest toward her cozy little cottage, the prince had a tantrum to rival all the ones in his youth. Upon hearing the news from his mother (who, by the way, was very relieved that her son was not marrying Snow White; it would have taken a lifetime to teach the poor girl all she needed to know, in her opinion), the prince screamed in rage. He kicked over all the urns full of beautiful yellow and white flowers in the palace’s chapel, threw his crown on the floor and stamped on it, ran through the long line of bridesmaids and groomsmen who all fled shrieking in fear, and even spit at the Bishop. Finally, he turned to his father, the King (who looked rather green from the scene his son had just made).

“How could you let this happen to me, Father? YOU should have found out all about her and made sure she was as good as she was beautiful! I will never be able to hold my head up in court again—she’s made a fool out of me! I won’t have it, I tell you, I-WON’T-HAVE-IT!” He jumped up and began stamping around again.

The King sighed, and said, “My son, you are no more ready for marriage than you are ready to be a king.” He took his son by one arm, nodded at the Queen, and said, “This has been a long time coming.” He sat down on a velvet chair, and pulled his son across his lap. There, in front of the entire court and wedding attendants, he administered his son’s first-ever spanking.

As for Snow White, how glad she was to be free! How good the warm earth felt on her bare feet! How good the hot sun felt on her face! She smiled when she saw the piles of dirty dishes and the unswept floors and hearth. Happily she went to work, singing all the while.

That night, the seven little dwarves trudged home, and to their delight found a fire going, all the rooms shining and clean, the table set and a big bowl of bright flowers in the middle. Snow White hugged each one and said, “Sit down. I made your favorite—pease porridge.”

And this time, they all really did live happily ever after.”

 

Jack the Corgi

(Introductory note: Jack, a cardigan corgi (the one with the tail, not the ones Queen Elizabeth has) is our “grand-dog.” When my step-daughter was deployed overseas, he stayed with us. He now has a little brother, Ross, another cardigan, who is just about as goofy as Jack is. This poem came about while I walked him; the rhythm of his toenails on the tar gave the poem its meter.)

Jack the Corgi

“Jack the Corgi’s a mighty fine dog

Throw him a stick and he’ll fetch you a log.

His ears, when he walks, go jiggle, jiggle, jiggle,

And his heinie and his tail go wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.

 

Jack the Corgi goes to town

With one ear up and one ear down.

He stops to sniff the trees and flowers

And is home in bed before the evening showers.

 

Jack the Corgi loves to ramble,

Roam and run and then just amble—

The leash he weaves behind my shoes

‘Til I nearly fall flat on my caboose.

 

Jack the Corgi sleeps upside-down

With his feet in the air and his head hanging down.

And while he sleeps, he dreams of treats

Of ice cream, cheese, and luncheon meats.

 

Jack the Corgi loves to go

Out in the wind and rain and snow.

Too much heat, not so much—

It makes him puff and pant and such.

 

Jack the Corgi’s an excellent swimmer

(Except of course if it interferes with his dinner)

He splashes and paddles and churns up the water,

And sneezes and snorts far more than he oughta.

 

Jack the Corgi loves his snacks—

Biscuits and carrots that come in packs,

Chips and cheese and warm hot dogs,

And snacks for people, but not for dogs!

 

Jack the Corgi may be fat of foot and short of leg,

Close to the ground and sturdily made,

But Jack the Corgi has a great big grin

To show the world what a good mood he’s in.

 

Jack the Corgi has a generous heart,

A great disposition (and the occasional fart).

His outlook is sunny, his aspect is funny,

And if he had any, he’d give you his money.

 

Jack the Corgi’s the best grand-dog ever,

Funny and quick and silly and clever.

He keeps us laughing night and day

And he’s always welcome with us to stay!”

The Night Singer

The Night Singer by Jane B. Fraser

Susie trembled in her sleep. The Bad Dream was coming and she couldn’t stop it. Since her parents had died in the car accident the Bad Dream came often.

Aunty Ruth, her father’s older sister, was her only relative and had grudgingly taken Susie in. The woman had lived a peaceful life with her two cats and was not happy about the sudden necessity of raising a 9-year old girl.

Susie wasn’t happy, either, especially when Aunt Ruth told her it was either live with her or go to an orphanage. Secretly, she felt that an orphanage might be preferable to being with Aunty Ruth and her endless nitpicky ways, but didn’t say so. Life had changed so quickly since the accident, and along with her constant sorrow, now there were many chores to do each day before she could go outside to play. Aunty liked the dishes washed, dried and put away after every meal, and the furniture had to be dusted daily. Susie also had to make her bed each morning and sweep the kitchen floor every other day.

“If you’re going to live here with me, you’ve got to pull your weight and help out,” said Aunty, her bristly gray-brown eyebrows pulled down to her small and rather beady eyes. “I’m not getting any younger.”

Two months to the day that her parents had been buried, Susie wanted to run away so badly her chest hurt. She had been washing a big platter the night before, and it had slipped out of her soapy hands and smashed to pieces on the floor. Aunty had sighed heavily and shooed her away when she tried to pick up the pieces.

“Don’t bother. It’s my fault—I should have known better than to let a child touch a valuable piece of china like that. Your great-grandfather, Josiah Wadlen, brought that from England for your great-grandmother. All these years it’s been in the family and never a chip—until now.”

“I-I’m sorry, Aunty—I didn’t mean to—“ Susie stuttered.

“Never mind. Just go up to bed.” Aunty turned and, without a good night to Susie, swept up the pieces of the platter.

“I hate her, I hate her!” Susie whispered to her favorite doll, Mrs. Lolly.     “I want to go home! I want Mummy and Daddy!”

She sobbed her hurt and loneliness into Mrs. Lolly’s flowered dress. Gradually her tears tapered off, and she fell asleep with her thumb in her mouth, something she hadn’t done in years.

Downstairs, Aunty Ruth sat in her rocking chair in the living room and addressed her two cats.

“Heaven knows, I wish Bob and Lucy never had that accident. I’m as sorry as I can be for poor Susie, but what do I know about raising a child? What in the world am I going to do?”

The cats’ eyes glowed in the semi-darkness, and she went on.

“Look at me. I won’t see 50 again, and I never did want a husband and kids—and now I’ve got a 9-year old girl who missing her folks and I don’t know what to do to help her.”

The gray cat stretched and yawned, displaying sharp teeth. It curled up around the sleeping tiger cat and rumbled contentedly. Aunty Ruth rocked in her chair and watched them sleep.

Susie was having the Bad Dream again. She was in the middle of snarl of stairs, twisting and zig-zagging wildly in all directions. She was supposed to climb them all; for what reason, she never knew. In the dream she was always filled with fear and urgency, and as she climbed, the stairs grew splintery and dangerous.

Moaning softly, she twisted and turned in the sheets trying to escape. Then suddenly, the stairs were gone and she woke up. Her body was covered in a light sweat, and there were tears on her cheeks. Her chest hitched in jerky breaths, and her heart was pounding.

“I got away!” she said to herself. Her Minnie Mouse clock on the nightstand read 3:07 am. The house was quiet, and the light from the streetlamp poured over the end of her bed.

She was still trying to decide if she was really awake when a small kitten walked into the light shining on the end of the  bed and sat down near her knees.

“Where’d you come from, Pusscat?”

Susie was delighted. Neither of Aunty Ruth’s cats liked her and always hissed at her. Maybe Aunty had gotten her the kitten she’d begged for. She sat up and looked closely at it, then realized it wasn’t a kitten at all.

Its ears, although catlike, were set lower on the head than a cat’s, and curled up slightly on the ends. The eyes were the color of the deepest purply-blue crayon she owned, and the pupils were not slitted like a cat’s, but round. Its fur glowed in the half-light and looked iridescent, like the inside of a seashell. It sat with its plumy tail wrapped around its feet and regarded her. Delicately it extended a paw to her.

“You’re pretty!” breathed Susie, and touched the proffered paw. As soon as she did, she heard a soft, bell-like voice in her mind.

“W-what? Are you talking to me?” Her eyes opened wide. “You’re not a cat at all, are you? But where did you come from, what—“

The softly chiming voice told her not to be afraid. It knew all about her, it said, and all that had happened to her. Gently, it patted her cheek, put its head near Susie’s, and sang a Healing Song. Susie lay back against the pillow, smiling. This time her thumb wasn’t in her mouth when she fell asleep; she was too big a girl for that.

In the morning, Susie surprised Aunty Ruth by skipping down the stairs, singing “Old MacDonald.”

“Morning, Aunty!” Susie wrapped both arms around Aunty’s narrow waist and hugged her. “I’m awful sorry about breaking that platter last night. I promise I’ll be real careful from now on.”

Aunty Ruth awkwardly patted Susie’s back and said, “That’s all right, child. Now let’s see about breakfast.”

As she walked into the kitchen, she thought with some humility, “I ought to remember what my own momma used to say to me—things don’t matter, but people do.” She smiled at the thought of Susie’s unexpected hug.

That night, the kitten-like creature came to Susie again. It praised her for what she said to Aunty Ruth.

“Funny, she doesn’t seem to be so picky or mean today,” Susie mused. “Maybe we’re starting to get used to each other.”

The creature agreed, and said that trust and love can change people if they let it. Susie must be the one to reach out, it said, because Aunty Ruth wasn’t used to thinking about anyone but herself for so long. The indigo eyes glimmered with gentle humor. She had made a wonderful start, it said, and walked up beside Susie’s head. It softly stroked her forehead with its paw and sang a Learning Song.

Weeks and months passed, and gradually Aunty and Susie became more comfortable with each other. Together they worked out a schedule for chores that seemed fair to them both. Susie got better at washing dishes, and Aunty Ruth became better at holding her tongue. They even discovered that they both liked playing Scrabble, and made time to play every evening.

Susie began to trust and then to love her aunt, and the sorrow over her parents began to lessen. She never forgot them, but her sharp grief gradually softened. Astonishingly, Aunty Ruth became quite adept at reading stories with her, and even began a tradition of having a special tea party on Sundays. She took a new interest in making special treats for Susie, and it became harder for her to remember life without her. Even her cats began to warm to Susie; one day she came home to find both cats sound asleep on her bed.

The little creature visited Susie less and less. Sensing her new strength and happiness, it smiled to itself. One night it appeared for the last time when the girl was deep in dreams; good ones this time. It pressed its silky head to Susie’s, and sang a Growing Song.

Far away from Susie and Aunty Ruth, a small boy cried in his sleep, the tears soaking his pillow. The angry voices of his parents had kept him awake and afraid for hours, and his chest hurt from holding his breath. He was afraid that this time his father would leave and never come back. In his dream, he was all alone, and he sobbed in fear.

A soft paw reached out of the darkness and gently patted his tears away.

An Alphabet of Awful Children (with apologies to Edward Gorey) by Jane B. Fraser

A is for Alice,

Who pooped in a pot,

Then blamed the whole thing on her big sister, Dot.

B is for Beaumont,

Who stole from the store,

Hid all his loot, then went back for more.

C is for Carol,

Who once on a dare,

Put French onion dip in her mom’s underwear.

D is for Donna,

Who answered the phone,

“Everyone’s dead—please leave us alone.”

E is for Edward,

A liar and sneak

Who hid a dead mouse in a sock for a week.

F is for Fergus,

Who ate his own snot,

And left his bag lunch in his locker to rot.

G is for Gertie,

Who still sucked her thumb

And scratched, in public, her pimply bum.

H is for Hoover,

Whose teeth were pea-green,

And whose hands smelt of places they shouldn’t have been.

I is for Ivy,

Whose toenails were long,

And poked out her shoes as she shuffled along.

J is for James,

Who spat in the chowder.

Then blamed his brother, and couldn’t be prouder.

K is for Kendall,

Who picked at his face,

And left bits of skin all over the place.

L is for Lola,

Whose rank, rancid breath

Hastened the class turtle’s imminent death.

M is for Mitchell,

Who threw up a frog,

That hopped on the floor and was et by the dog.

N is for Nicholas,

Who feasted on flies,

And secretly snuck them into blueberry pies.

O is for Octavia,

Who sculpted with Spam,

And topped her creations with nasty toe jam.

P is for Pete,

Who cheated and lied,

And bragged of his exploits with unseemly pride.

Q is for Queenie,

Sneaky and sly,

Who doctored the family dinner with lye.

R is for Roland

Whose armpits were smelly,

And liked to pick lint from the hole in his belly.

S is for Selwyn,

Who peed in the hall,

All down the stairs, and all up the wall.

T is for Tilly,

Whose glasses were smeared,

And was fully as weird as originally feared.

U is for Ulrich,

Who farted while sneezing,

And set the whole household and neighbors to wheezing.

V is for Victoria,

Who flicked boogers at teachers,

And laughed as they shrieked, the unfortunate creatures.

W is for Wendell,

Who whimpered and whined,

And pouted and fussed while the family dined.

X is for Xander,

A fractious young man,

Who ate jalapenos straight from the can.

Y is for Yolanda,

Whose odor atrocious,

Made all her clothes stink something ferocious.

 Z is for Zenita,

Who barfed in the sink,

And left the whole mess, all curdled and pink.